Photos/Videos: Tommy Muir, Ryan Nix, Kathy Leister & Jake Gabel
By: Jake Gabel
SPRINGFIELD, PA – For the 25th time in the past 29 years, La Salle College High School won the Philadelphia Catholic League lacrosse title. Despite a valiant effort from league rival St. Joseph’s Prep, the Explorers prevailed once again, 8-6.
Right before the set game time, a strong storm roared over Cardinal O’Hara High School’s stadium prompting a rain delay. After a half hour of heavy rainfall, the storm finally stopped and the championship resumed.
The delay seemed to have little effect on the players as the Hawks and Explorers came out with high energy. That was evident when La Salle senior Jack Pilling flicked his wrists for the first goal of the day early in the first quarter.
Not long after, La Salle senior Peter Oppenheimer made it look easy with a goal of his own to put the Explorers up 2-0. The quick strikes made it seem as though undefeated La Salle was going to march to another effortless victory.
During the regular season, the Explorers defeated the Hawks 12-2. Despite the early lopsided loss, St. Joseph’s Prep went on to acquire a 10-1 PCL record and wanted nothing more than to make their opponents earn the coveted PCL plaque. This championship match-up would be the debut game for newly appointed St. Joseph’s Prep head coach Roger Reynolds, who stepped up following the Hawks 15-7 semifinal win against Lansdale Catholic due to unforeseen circumstances.
With a new spark, St. Joseph’s Prep was up to the challenge to cancel the early deficit and quickly answered back. Freshman midfielder Luke Bieberbach would put the Hawks on the board in the first quarter with a goal, making things 2-1. La Salle answered with another goal to put them up 3-1.
After a save and long pass from freshman goalie Keegan Dunn, senior Owen McConaghy raced down the field. After getting past multiple La Salle defenders, McConaghy took it all the way himself and scored, cutting the lead to 3-2. La Salle would wind up with one more goal before the end of the first quarter taking a 4-2 lead.
The second quarter was all St Joseph’s Prep. The Hawks would hold La Salle scoreless in the quarter and tallied two additional goals to enter halftime tied 4-4. The two goals were courtesy of senior Mitchell Lloyd and Bieberbach.
After the half, La Salle would put another goal in to give them a 5-4 lead. Not long after, for the hat trick, Bieberbach would score his third goal of the game to tie things back up at 5-5. La Salle however would score two more goals before the quarters end, making it a 7-5 game with one quarter to go.
La Salle would take advantage of the lead and chew a lot of clock in the final quarter. Nothing was working for either side until the two-minute mark. St. Joseph’s Prep would close the gap to just one goal with help from, you guessed it, Luke Bieberbach, who scored his fourth goal.
With little time left, St. Joseph’s Prep had to get aggressive and gamble, which meant going after the ball and hoping for a mistake to gain possession. That opened an opportunity for La Salle sophomore Paul Van Bastelaar to score an easy goal for the dagger, winning 8-6.
Senior defender Henry Troy said this 6th championship meant a lot, especially when playing a talented team like St. Joseph’s Prep.
“It means a lot every single year. The Prep always has a great team, they come out and fight us hard,” said Troy. “When they keep the game close like that and we can keep them off that long it means a lot to us and gives us some momentum going into the (state) playoffs.”
La Salle Stats: Jack Pilling (3), Jack Vandegrift, Peter Oppenheimer, Frank Fix, Charlie Huntley & Paul Van Bastelaar. Matt Nelson 4 saves.
SJP Stats: Luke Bieberbach (4), Mitchell Lloyd, Owen McConaghy
Following the PCL championship victory, La Salle defeated Central High School 14-1 to win the District 12 3A title. St. Joseph’s Prep defeated George Washington High School 19-0 to advance to the PIAA state tournament.
Lansdale Catholic defeated fellow PCL opponent Devon Prep 15-5 to claim the District 12 2A title. Pat Cooney led the Crusaders with 5 goals. Mikey Kleinert scored three and Connor Mann, Pat McKeever and Patch Flannery each added two goals with Colin Corbett scoring one. Goalkeeper Jack Kennedy notched 12 saves in the win. On the season, Mann, a first-team Philadelphia Catholic League selection, scored his 200th career varsity goal during Lansdale’s PCL quarterfinal victory against Father Judge. Corbett also recorded his 100th career point in the Crusader’s District 12 semifinal win vs. Boys Latin Charter. He scored one goal and added six assists.
On Monday, May 31 all four PCL teams will begin their state championship journeys.
In 3A, La Salle will host Garnet Valley at 3 p.m. in the PIAA first round. St. Joseph’s Prep will travel to Bethlehem to play Freedom High School at 5:30 p.m. The 3A quarterfinals are scheduled for Saturday, June 4, with semifinals being held on Tuesday, June 7. The PIAA 3A Championship is currently scheduled for Saturday, June 11 at 4:30 p.m. at West Chester East High School.
In 2A, Lansdale Catholic will take the field after La Salle at 5 p.m. against Lampeter Strausburg. Devon Prep will travel to play Allentown Central Catholic at Muhlenberg College at 7:30 p.m.
The 2A PIAA championship schedule mirrors the 3A tournament with the quarterfinals scheduled for Saturday, June 4, and the semifinals being held on Tuesday, June 7. The PIAA 2A Championship will be played before the 3A championship on Saturday, June 11 at 2:30 p.m. at West Chester East High School.